High FODMAP Foods (and what to eat instead)
Updated: May 5
What are FODMAPS?
Struggling with digestive issues requires a deeper look at the foods we are eating. It can often seem like the healthier you eat, the worse digestive issues become. This is because of a compound in foods called FODMAPs which can increase symptoms like gas, bloating and stomach pain. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols, basically carbohydrates that are easily fermented in the gut.
A food is categorized as high-FODMAP according to predefined cut-off levels. Published cut-off levels suggest that a high-FODMAP food contains more than one of the following carbs:
Oligosaccharides: 0.3 grams of either fructans or galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)
Disaccharides: 4.0 grams of lactose
Monosaccharides: 0.2 grams more fructose than glucose
Polyols: 0.3 grams of either mannitol or sorbitol
There are two universities that have great resources and study high FODMAP foods — Monash University and King's College London. I suggest getting the Monash App for a quick reference for FODMAP levels in food.
It is important to understand that not everyone should avoid FODMAP foods and if you do notice an improvement in symptoms, it is a clue that there is an underlying bacteria imbalances in your gut that need to be corrected. A long-term low FODMAP diet can have a negative impact on your gut health, so using it as a tool to assess impact on symptoms, is the best way to approach this very restrictive type of diet. I suggest following this diet for no more than 2-6 weeks.
Lets look at some of the common high FODMAP foods and find better substitutions you can use in your diet.
1. Wheat Wheat contains oligosaccharides like fructans which create gas. While wheat and gluten elimination is a good place to start, this doesn't mean you have to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.
The most common sources of wheat include bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and pastries.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, corn (non-GMO) polenta, quinoa and tapioca.
2. Apples Apples contain high levels of polyols and fructose which pull water into the gut. If you notice you get diarrhea after you eat an apple, this might be something to look into. If consumed in large amounts, it can create a high load of fructose in your body and contribute to digestive issues. When you are first starting a low FODMAP diet, it is best to eliminate apples.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Unripe (slightly green) bananas, blueberries, kiwi, limes, oranges and strawberries.
3. Cauliflower Many vegetables are high in fodmaps as most contain some levels of fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructose, mannitol and sorbitol. Cauliflower is topping the list because it contains polyols which pull water into the gut and its a food I have seen cause a lot of digestive distress.
For a comprehensive list of high FODMAP veggies (and foods), check out this CHART. Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Bean sprouts, capsicum, carrot, choy sum, eggplant, kale, tomato, spinach and zucchini.
4. Garlic Garlic is a very potent source of fructans and is one of the more challenging foods on this list to avoid. Especially if you go out to eat a lot, garlic is added to many sauces, gravies and flavorings. Dried garlic contains about 3 times the amount of fructans, but overall any form of garlic should be avoided.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Chives, chili, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, lemongrass, mustard seeds and saffron.
Similar to garlic, onion is commonly used to flavor a wide range of dishes, making it difficult to restrict. Shallots are one of the highest sources of fructans, while a Spanish onion is one of the lowest sources. While different varieties of onions contain different amounts of FODMAPs, all onions are considered high-FODMAP.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Chives, leeks (green leaves only).
6. Legumes Beans are truly the magical fruit! Many legumes contain galacato-oligosaccharides (GOS) and can have varying amounts depending on how they are prepared. For example, canned lentils contain half the GOS that boiled lentils do. Since GOS is water soluble, it can be decreased by soaking beans overnight.
With beans containing higher levels of FODMAPs, it can be hard to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet when you have active digestive issues. I encourage my clients to bring in some alternative sources of protein for a short period of time and assess symptoms.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Tofu, eggs and most nuts and seeds.
7. Dairy Lactose is the main FODMAP in most dairy products. However, many hard and matured kinds of cheese, lose most of their lactose during the cheesemaking process.
Many people with digestive issues also have a hard time tolerating dairy. If you have a dairy sensitivity, it is best to continue to avoid dairy altogether.
Suggested low-FODMAP swaps: Cheddar cheese, cream, feta cheese, lactose-free milk and Parmesan cheese.
Is a Low-FODMAP diet suitable for everyone? No, ideally only people with active digestive issues or IBS can benefit from a short-term low-FODMAP diet. The most important thing to remember is that if your body responds positively to this diet, you haven't gotten to the root cause of your imbalance. Following this diet long-term can temporarily decrease symptoms but in the long-term make things worse. FODMAPs are very beneficial and an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. FODMAPs feed bacteria and are a fuel source of healthy bacteria in the gut.
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